Yesterday, as I climbed the stairs to the office, my morning daze was interrupted by a colleague’s question.

“So the judges are upstairs in the boardroom. Are you heading up?”

Judges?

She could see my mental RAM struggling to overcome my disappearing REM.

“The judges? From Turkey? They’re meeting now.”

Office Outlook palpitations began in the back of my neck. A meeting that I had calendared—inexplicably—for Thursday was being held 15 feet skyward at this very minute.

The previous week, when I had heard that a delegation of Turkish judges was going to visit the State Bar of Arizona, I naturally requested that I be present. I mean, an awful lot happens in and around the State Bar, but judges from Turkey stopping in for a chat? Definitely once-in-a-lifetime stuff.

I had gotten the green light, but promptly got the day wrong on my calendar.

Though the meeting had already started, I decided to attend. No time like the present, I thought. But I was (I had thought blissfully) suit-free.

The Turkish delegation was led by Ministry of Justice Undersecretary Ahmet Kahraman, who is a member of the Judges and Prosecutors High Council

Understand, when I worked as a lawyer or clerked for a judge, at law firms or prosecutors’ offices, I was all about the nice suit. But since then, I have suited up only on the days that my calendar tells me it will be necessary. And Tuesday’s Outlook appeared judge-free.

Well, I plunged in anyway, and I was happy I did.

The U.S. Department of Justice was ferrying these eight judges and members of the Turkish Ministry of Justice on a whirlwind legal tour. On their trip, which runs December 2 through 11, they will visit Washington, Phoenix and Denver. Here is how the DOJ described the goal of the trip’s Arizona portion:

“In terms of purpose, if the study visit could be boiled down to one word, it would be ‘professionalism.’

“The delegates would like to understand how each section of the judicial system helps to develop, maintain, and improve the professionalism of judges and prosecutors.”

The delegates were hosted in Phoenix by Judge Daniel Barker of Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals. On their trip, they visited a variety of legal centers, including the federal court and the Arizona Supreme Court. (They also got to attend a rodeo and have lunch at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.)

So on Tuesday for about an hour, the high-level lawyers and judges spoke with the State Bar’s CEO John Phelps and its General Counsel John Furlong. Everything passed back and forth through two translators, and many topics were covered.

(The delegates were extremely friendly, even going so far as to extend me a gift: a flash drive (4GB!) branded with the Turkish Ministry of Justice name and logo. Thank you, Adalet Bakanlığı!)

One of the delegates summed up their visit:

“In Turkey we believe we have some shortcomings to ensure public trust in our legal system. That’s why we are reviewing the Arizona system, which we know has gained significant ground in that process.”

The Turkish Ministry of Justice is online here. And if you really need the English version, go here.

More on the story will appear in the February issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

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